The Romans

in Castle Bromwich

 

The Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar came to Britain in 55 and again in 54 BC.

 

But it was not until 43 AD that the Emperor Claudius sent the Roman army to make Britain part of the Empire.

 

Britain was to be part of the Roman Empire for almost 400 years.

 

The Roman army made roads through this area. You can still see part of the Roman road in Sutton Park. They also built a fort for a thousand soldiers where the University of Birmingham is now.

 

 

Icknield Street, the Roman road in Sutton Park
Icknield Street, the Roman road in Sutton Park

However, Birmingham was not an important area for the Romans. There were dense forests on the east side of Birmingham (including around Castle Bromwich) which were difficult to get through. And the land to the west of Birmingham was not very good for farming.

 

So, apart from the fort near Birmingham University, the Romans passed through this area and did not build towns here.

 

The Iron Age Celtic people were here before the Romans and they still lived here. They had villages and farms and fields as they had always done - and they probably lived in a village somewhere in Castle Bromwich, although no evidence has been found of it. 

 

Evidence of the Romans

Roman roads and forts in the Birmingham area

Click the map to enlarge it.
Click the map to enlarge it.


This map shows the Roman roads in the Birmingham area on a modern Google map.

 

If it's red, it's Roman. The rest of the map is modern.

 

None of the towns and roads were here 2000 years ago, just forests and countryside and a few small farms with rough tracks between them. 

 

The Romans did not build a road through Castle Bromwich, but it is fairly certain that they did use the Chester Road which had already been in use for thousands of years.

 

Metchley fort from Birmingham City Council website
Metchley fort from Birmingham City Council website

 

Metchley Fort

The Birmingham area was not a centre of Roman civilisation: there were no Roman towns or villas here. But there is evidence of occupation by the Roman army. Excavations took place near Birmingham University in the 1930s which unearthed a Roman fort. It had been built for about a thousand soldiers soon after the invasion of 43 AD and it was used for about a hundred years. (The Romans were in Britain for almost 400 years.)

 

The Roman road in Sutton Park can still be seen; it was built by the Roman army.

 

And archaeologists have excavated evidence of ordinary people: farms at Kings Norton and near the Bull Ring, a number of pottery kilns, and a Roman temple near Coleshill. Many coins have also been found and some hoards of coins.

 

Coleshill Roman Temple

 

In 1978 building workers at Coleshill found the remains of a Roman temple. It took archaeologists two years to excavate. They found evidence that people lived here before the Romans came.

 

 

This drawing is of the temple which was used for 200 years from the 2nd century. The remains of a bath house were discovered. Roman pottery, coins and brooches were unearthed. 


Archaeological evidence of the Romans in Castle Bromwich

Castle Hill/ Pimple Hill photographed by jimperkins.co.uk
Castle Hill/ Pimple Hill photographed by jimperkins.co.uk

 

In the 1970s, before the Chelmsley Collector Road was built, archaeologists from the University of Birmingham excavated the area around the Castle Hill.

 

At the bottom of the hill they found evidence of a building made of timber and clay. They also found pieces of Roman pottery including a piece of a mortar for grinding spices.

 

It is not known what the building was and it is not known what it was used for. 

 

 

(Below) Recreated Iron Age houses at Butser Ancient Farm, Hampshire (images reusable from the Geograph website). Houses at Castle Bromwich may have looked like this.


Click the picture to enlarge it.

 

A recreated Roman villa at Butser Ancient farm, Hampshire (image reusable from the Geograph website). The building near the Castle Hill probably did not look like this.


Click to enlarge.

 


A dupondius of the Empress Faustina II (125-175 AD)
A dupondius of the Empress Faustina II (125-175 AD)

 

 

Buried Treasure

 

Lots of Roman coins have been found in Birmingham - not by archaeologists, but often by gardeners. On the parkland by Castle Bromwich Hall a coin known as a dupondius was found in 1963. It had on it the portrait of Empress Faustina II who ruled early in the 2nd century; the coin is nearly 2000 years old.

 

In the 19th century a gold coin was found in Castle Bromwich. It had been made in York by a Celtic tribe called the Brigantes and was designed in the Roman style.

Who knows what you might find in your garden!


Mystery 

 

Perhaps most interesting is the Shard End coin hoard (Shard End used to be part of Castle Bromwich.) William Wood was the farmer at Shard End Farm which stood on the corner of the Heath Way near the shops on Shard End Crescent.

 

While Farmer Wood was working in the fields in 1909, he dug up an old pot.

It was a rough clay pot and not very well made. But when he tipped it up, out fell a large number of coins. They were silver coin, Roman coins, known as denarii - and there were 200 of them, a large sum of money in Roman times.


A coin of the Emperor Commodus c180 AD
A coin of the Emperor Commodus c180 AD

The coins ranged in date from the reign of the Emperor Nero (54-68 AD) to the Emperor Commodus (180-192 AD). So they would probably have been buried about the year 200.

 

Some of the coins were actually forgeries almost 2000 years old. No-one knows why the coins were buried. They were worth a lot of money 2000 years ago. It may be that there was a rich farm here in Roman times. There may have been trouble from thieves, or a threat of war from local tribes, and the farmer wanted to keep his money safely hidden.

 

We do not know what happened to the person who hid the money - except that he never saw his silver coins again.

 

Weblinks


For lots more information about Roman Britain, click on the picture to open the BBC History website on a new page. 


There's even more to find out on David & Margaret's Early British Kingdoms website.

Click to open it on a new page.

'A History of Castle Bromwich for Young People' written by William Dargue 2016 for the Castle Bromwich Bellringers.

We’ve been ringing here for 500 years and are keen to involve local people in our ancient art. Contact us via our Castle Bromwich Bell Ringers website if you want learn to ring or visit the tower or have one of us talk to your group about the history of Castle Bromwich, our church or bellringing.  Material on this site may be reused only for non-commercial purposes providing appropriate attribution is given (Creative Commons Licence Attribution NonCommercial 4.0) - details on the Contact page.